GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- Guyana remains loyal to its position of solidarity with Cuba to end the half-a-century embargo against the Spanish speaking island by the United States, President Donald Ramotar said on Sunday evening, as Guyana and Cuba celebrated their 40th anniversary of bilateral relations.
During a reception to mark the occasion, Ramotar said Guyana will continue to push for an end to the blockade.
Signs of hope for a change came in 2009 when newly elected US President Barack Obama spoke of a “new beginning” with Cuba during the Fifth Summit of the Americas hosted in neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago.
The promise brought comfort to leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) including former president of Guyana Bharrat Jagdeo who, while leading a delegation of regional heads to hold talks with President Obama described it as a good first step.
The commercial, economic, and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America has been in existence since the 1960s, a move which Cuban Ambassador to Guyana Raul Gortázar Marrero described as a strategy to isolate Cuba from countries in Latin America the Caribbean and the rest of the world.
In 1972, Guyana was one of four CARICOM nations to establish bilateral relations. The others were Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.
“Cuba will be… grateful to the Guyanese brothers and sisters for its… position of respect and solidarity that it always had for our country… the evidence had been the historic vote in the United Nations General Assembly supporting us against the unjust and cruel blockade,” Marrero said in his remarks at the reception.
The decision Guyana took 40 years ago was described by President Ramotar as a divergence from the status quo of diplomatic and trade relations and a clear demonstration to the world of the place which Cuba occupies within the regional family of Caribbean nations, and the respect which Guyana holds for Cuba’s sovereignty and right to self determination.
Over the last 40 years, the relationship between Guyana and Cuba has been built on the solid foundation of dynamic political dialogue, warm mutual respect and productive cooperation, Ramotar said.
“As true friends, we stood by each other in the good times and the bad times. During our own struggle to safeguard our independence and to build on the foundations for the growth and development of our nation, Cuba was in the forefront in providing the much needed support, especially key in the area of science and technology, health, culture, sports and education,” Ramotar said.
A visit by former president Jagdeo to Cuba and meeting with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro that subsequently led to the signing of a bilateral agreement for Guyanese to pursue scholarship study in Cuba and return as professionals in the fields of medicine, engineering and agriculture further deepened the two countries’ relations.
A total of 69 Cuban scholarship awardees taken from the first batch of 500 students to have ventured off to study are pursuing their final year exams, and it is anticipated that an additional 278 will be returning next year.
Upon completion of their studies and 18 months of internship, the scholarship awardees are bound by a contract that requires them to serve for a period of five years maximum, for those pursuing medicine and two to three years in other areas of study.
The Guyana/Cuba pact also made possible technical support in the construction of four diagnostic and treatment centres and a state-of-the-art eye care facility at Port Mourant.
Prior to this agreement, Guyanese in need of eye treatment travelled to Cuba in batches for surgeries through a programme called ‘Operation Miracle’, another of the two countries’ relations.
In October, Ramotar met incumbent Cuban president Raul Castro for the first time when he visited Cuba and discussed the bilateral programme of cooperation.
Agreements on the exemption of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic, official and service passports and cooperation in the areas of sport and health were signed and Guyana informed Cuba of its decision to exempt Cuban nationals from visa requirements to enter and remain in Guyana for periods not exceeding 90 days for the holders of all categories of passports.
Ramotar in his message on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Guyana/Cuba diplomatic relations said, “Guyana values highly its relations with Cuba which have endured based on the principles of solidarity, strategic partnership and a steadfast dedication towards the improvement of the lives of our peoples.”